The EUROS 2016 are in full swing, with the second matchday ending on Saturday evening. Germany's national team followed up a 2-0 win over the Ukraine in their opening group match with a stalemate against Poland on Thursday. A point against Northern Ireland on Tuesday would ensure the DFB Team a spot in the last 16 - whether this will be in first place or in second depends on the outcome of Poland's encounter with the Ukraine which will be played at the same time (kick-off: 18:00 CEST). Germany coach Joachim Löw is confident that his team will secure the top spot in their group against Northern Ireland. The World Cup winning coach spoke with DFB.de and explained why he gave his players Saturday off, gives us his view of the team against Poland and reacts to criticism regarding a lack of leading qualities in the squad.
... the public criticism on the lack of leading abilities of his players: That makes me smile. We had the same discussion in 2014 already. We went on to win the World Cup and suddenly all our players were great leaders. We draw one game 0-0 and the topic is back. To be honest, that's all I have to say on that. Our players have great qualities as leaders.
... the 0-0 draw with Poland: Our defence was good, but in the final third we couldn't find a breakthrough and criticism is justified here. Often we lacked numbers in the box, played high balls forward which worked in Poland's favour. But we can also live with this point quite well. We succeeded in defending as a team and barely allowed any chances. Unfortunately we couldn't find the right timing and pace going forward. We addressed this problem with the team and it's a good approach to work on improving it.
... giving his players the day off on Saturday: It was the plan all along, regardless of the result against Poland. We've trained every single day since arriving in Évian. Now is the time to release some of the tension and regenerate. We still have two days of training before the Northern Ireland game. For us, this tournament is seven weeks long and therefore it's good to have a day where you can enjoy your freedom and do the things you like to. But this doesn't mean that concentration will be lacking. On Sunday we will begin our preparation for the game with full focus. If you're constantly under tension at a tournament, you won't have a chance to win it.
... the fitness of his team: Physically the team is in a good state. The things that didn't go well against Poland didn’t have any specific reasons.
... Jerome Boateng: Jerome has been a leading figure in our team for a while now. He was already in great shape back at the World Cup in 2014 and produced a decisive performance in the final, allowing us to win the title. His development has been very, very good. I liked the fact that he voiced criticism after the Poland game. He engrosses the leading role in the team and has a feeling for how things will unfold. He is very highly regarded within the team and obviously a world class defender.
... Germany's attack: Özil, Götze, Kroos and others are excellent passers of the ball, who are able to take four or five opponents out of the game with a single pass. And we need players who can prevail in one-on-one situations, especially since Northern Ireland often play with a six-man backline and a row of four players in front of that.
... making changes to his starting line-up: There certainly could be changes. I'm currently debating that myself.
... next opponents Northern Ireland: They are one of the surprise teams so far this tournament. They have an unbelievable fighting spirit and unbelievable energy. They are a very dangerous side and have players in their squad, who can cover a lot of ground and are good in the air. Their defence is also very solid.